As the Cardinals near staring a 10 game deficit the topic of 2012 has once again crept into the minds of their fans. There are some huge questions hanging over the franchise as the season begins to wind down and I don’t know if there is another franchise with as much uncertainty towards next year.
In part 2 of this
four now five part series, I will be looking at the players who have contract options for 2012.
The two contract options that I think may as well be considered picked up are those of Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina.
Now, just a week shy of his 30th birthday, Adam Wainwright will be coming off Tommy John surgery next year. It was reported by the Post-Dispatch that Wainwright has recently begun long toss from 120 feet, a big step in his recovery. He is expected to be cleared to throw from a mound at some point in September. A big question posed by fans is why would you take the risk of assuming the option years on Wainwright’s contract that total $21 million over the next two years and not try to renegotiate something with him to be flexible seeing as he’s coming off of injury.
The simple point is that Wainwright has all the power in that process. If the Cardinals choose not to pick up his option for 2012, he becomes a free agent at the end of this season. While many teams will be wary of the injury, there will be teams willing to spend more than the $9 million he’d be due next season to put a man who has won 39 games and posted a 2.53 ERA over his last two seasons.
In my opinion, the talent per dollar drop off for pitchers is much greater for pitchers and with the way that Tommy John surgery is becoming more and more routine these days, you don’t screw around with the potential of turning off a Cy Young caliber pitcher. You would think, at worst he’s a fifth starter pitcher which you’ll spend $9-$11 million on anyway. At best he’s the Cy Young caliber pitcher he’s been the last two years and retakes his place at the top of your rotation next year.
For Yadier Molina, he is coming off of his best season. He’s hitting over .300 and has a career high 11 HR. He has a $7 million option that would put him in the top-3 highest paid catchers in the league next year. To me it would be a no brainer to pick up the option, but there is some talk that he and the Cardinals may talk about an extension that would add years and lessen that 2012 salary number.
In my opinion, I’m nervous about the number of innings on Molina’s knees. He is on pace to put up another 1,130 innings at catcher, that’s less than the previous two years. However, under the 4 years of the last contract he signed, he will have turned in nearly 4,500 innings behind the plate. I’m willing to guess that that is the most in the majors. Can he continue to stay healthy? My guess is that he has probably 3-4 more effective years at catcher before he will need to be dialed back. The sooner you dial him back too, the longer you should be able to use him.
Now onto the question mark options. Chris Carpenter, Rafael Furcal, and Octavio Dotel.
Carpenter, 37, had a slow start this season, but much of that was attributed to a shaky defense behind him. He’s stepped it up through the summer to once again become the staff ace. There are two questions to Carpenter. First, can the Cardinals afford that $15 million option and Albert Pujols? Second, is Carpenter slowing down or can we expect 2-3 more solid years out of him and is he worth extending?
There is a lot of fan talk that the Cardinals should consider with Carpenter what the Reds did with Rolen last year. They threw in a little more money and extended him. A 1 year, $15 million contract for Carpenter makes many fans tense up. However, there is great support putting together a 2 year, $20 million deal with another $10 million option. That would extend Carpenter into his 40s and I think that he’s the type of player who would leave money on the table if he wasn’t playing as well as he should be.
Rafael Furcal is a tougher question. As of right now, the 33 year old short stop has played in 339 games since 2008. The teams that he’s been on have played 614 games. That means he played just 55% of the potential games due to injuries. He received another freak injury over the weekend at Wrigley Field by tripping over a rope in the batting cages there. The team holds a $12 million option on him that seems like a no-brainer to not exercise.
There are large health concerns with Furcal, but there is no doubt that if he’s healthy he could solidify the short stop situation for the next couple years. The pool of quality middle infielders is extremely shallow (if the Nationals have a trade market for Ian Desmond, you know the pool is shallow) so there will definitely be a market for Furcal’s services in the offseason. Ultimately, I think that will be why the Cardinals do not pursue him. If they get matched up against multiple teams wanting him, he will cost more than they are willing to invest in him. Especially when it seems Daniel Descalso can play a pretty good shortstop.
For Octavio Dotel, he is quite a cheaper option for the Cardinals at $3.5 million. It still makes him potentially the most expensive bullpen arm for the Cardinals. Dotel will be 38 next season. He has a 3.71 ERA over 165 innings the last three seasons between the White Sox, Pirates, Dodgers, Rockies, Blue Jays and Cardinals. Yes, that’s right. Six teams in three years. And he spent all of 2009 with the White Sox to boot.
I think Dotel is one of the pitchers you have to bring back for next season. With the way the bullpen is stacking up for next year, he would be one of the only true veteran relievers and that might be worthwhile having out in the bullpen with the young pitchers. Plus, if the team is intending to pull an existing reliever into next year’s rotation I would be more confident with Dotel in the bullpen than someone from Memphis. But, I’ve been surprised in that aspect before.
Since I’ve already written a ton more than I intended to for this article (I shoot for 1000 words, and I’m almost at 1100 at this point), I’m going to extend the series by a part. Tomorrow I will discuss the young, in-house talent that we can expect to contribute to the Cardinals in 2012.
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